Which wound cuts deeper: loss of an only child or loss of a spouse? An examination of bereavement in older adults within a Chinese cultural context.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to examine whether the loss of spouse had similar impacts on psychological well-being as the loss of the only child, and whether the presence of one mitigated the absence of the other. METHODS: We used data from a 2013 survey conducted in Shanghai, China. The sample included 1,200 older adults aged 60+, and 200 adults aged 45+ who lost their only child. Psychological well-being consisted of three dimensions: depression, loneliness, and life satisfaction. We applied logistic regression models to assess the impact of loss of spouse or children on psychological well-being. We further tested whether the impact differed by gender and whether social support mediated the relationship. RESULTS: Participants who have at least one living child but lost their spouse had less psychological distress than those who have a living spouse but lost their only child. This effect appeared to be stronger in women than in men. Social support mediated the relationship between bereavement and loneliness among women. CONCLUSION: The findings suggested the loss of the only child is a more devastating event than the loss of spouse in Chinese adults. The loss of the only child is a major chronic stressor that has cumulative negative effect on psychological well-being.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Liang, Y; Xu, H; Chen, F; Liang, H; Wu, B

Published Date

  • June 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 26 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 1217 - 1225

PubMed ID

  • 33896295

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1364-6915

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1080/13607863.2021.1913473


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England